What Types of Photos Inspire Energy Efficiency Investing?

April 9, 2015
What types of photos inspire energy efficiency investing? Not pictures of CFLs or products, but instead, photos of people taking action to save energy. For example, photos of people getting rebate checks or announcing a 40% savings work best. In addition photos showing control and comfort are effective.

When marketers try to inspire energy efficiency investing in consumers, they often choose images of the compact florescent lightbulb.

But consumers make decisions based on their emotions–and it’s hard to get inspired by a photo of a product.

Instead, marketers need to focus on photos of people taking positive action. For example, a big photo or sign of a business owner bragging about cutting energy bills by 40% is much more effective.

That’s the conclusion of a new report from Resource Media, says Debbie Slobe, managing program director.

“We know from psychological research that people’s decisions are emotional. Emotions drive decision-making. Also we are visual creatures. Visuals can be powerful triggers to emotions,” she says.

The report, “Beyond the CFL: Winning Imagery for Energy Efficiency,” is based on focus groups with renters and building owners who were given 21 images and four videos. They were asked to react and discuss their feelings with each other.

Interestingly, the study found that people’s reactions to the images did not fall along party lines. “There wasn’t any polarization,” Slobe says. “Everyone felt energy efficiency was the right thing to do.”

When the renters and building owners were shown visuals of energy waste–buildings with all the lights on, or obnoxious displays of energy usage–they became upset, she says. However, these visuals did not inspire them to think about possible solutions.

However, images of people taking action did inspire the renters and building owners. Such images include people caulking windows, changing out lightbulbs, or proudly displaying rebate checks.

“Images of people taking positive action got the study participants talking and elicited the strongest reactions,” Slobe says.

In addition, images of comfort inspired the study participants. These included photos of a woman with a child looking safe and warm on a cold day, for example.

Also effective were images of people controlling their energy usage–using smart phones, for example. However, pictures of energy displays or iPads elicited confusion and disinterest.

“People want to see people engaged taking positive action. They don’t want to see product shots,” Slobe says.

Resource Media will be hosting a webinar 10 am PST May 19 to share the findings and answer questions.To sign up for the webinar, email [email protected]

The study can be found here: http://www.resource-media.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Beyond-the-CFL-EE-Imagery-Testing-Report.pdf

About the Author

Lisa Cohn | Contributing Editor

I focus on the West Coast and Midwest. Email me at [email protected]

I’ve been writing about energy for more than 20 years, and my stories have appeared in EnergyBiz, SNL Financial, Mother Earth News, Natural Home Magazine, Horizon Air Magazine, Oregon Business, Open Spaces, the Portland Tribune, The Oregonian, Renewable Energy World, Windpower Monthly and other publications. I’m also a former stringer for the Platts/McGraw-Hill energy publications. I began my career covering energy and environment for The Cape Cod Times, where Elisa Wood also was a reporter. I’ve received numerous writing awards from national, regional and local organizations, including Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Willamette Writers, Associated Oregon Industries, and the Voice of Youth Advocates. I first became interested in energy as a student at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, where I helped design and build a solar house.

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